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Teacher’s Aide Accused In Drug Deaths Of Students Back In Court

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CENTENNIAL (CBS4) – More testimony was heard Tuesday to decide if a former teacher’s aide will stand trial for murder.

Almeda Beth Sullivan, 51, was back in court in Arapahoe County for her preliminary hearing. She’s accused of selling drugs to students who died of overdoses.

A 31-page arrest affidavit says Sullivan is linked to the overdose deaths of four people between the ages of 19 and 28 years old. According to police, the deaths spanned from 2007 to 2011, including two that occurred on the same day.

Police say Sullivan is linked to the overdose deaths of the following four people: Carter Lee Higdon, 21; Sierra Renee Cochran, 19; Lindsey Jo Saidy, 28; and Martynas Simanskas, 20.

The drug Opana was found in all of the victims.

It was the overdose death of Higdon that led investigators to Sullivan’s home. A crime technician recognized her home from another overdose death, which kicked off a larger investigation.

“The same drug, Opana, appears in each of the four victims. That is not a normal drug you see around,” Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler said last July.

According to the coroner, when the first three victim’s died Opana was not detected in their systems because the drug was so new. Years later, while investigating Higdon’s death, new tissue samples were taken from those victims and Opana linked them back to Sullivan.

Prosecutors say Sullivan’s medical background as a respiratory technician, among other specialties, gave her knowledge of the drug and its potency. Opana is 10 times more potent than morphine.

At Sullivan’s Centennial home police say they found a large amount of various prescription pills, including OxyContin. Court documents say Sullivan was also receiving excess amounts of pills. Records from a database that tracks narcotic prescriptions indicates she received between 4,000 and 5,000 pills each year from 2007 to 2011.

Sullivan’s preliminary hearing will continue June 16 to determine if there’s enough evidence for a trial.

The Cherry Creek School District confirmed Sullivan is a former teacher’s aide at West Middle School and worked in transportation. She worked for the district on two separate occasions. She left the district in May 2005.

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